Min Coveney welcomes Council of Europe interim resolution on NI legacy issues
Statement03 December 2020
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney TD, has welcomed the Interim Resolution adopted today by the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers in Strasbourg in relation to a number of Northern Ireland legacy cases, including the case of Pat Finucane.
The statement made on behalf of Ireland to the Committee of Ministers meeting on Tuesday, 1 December is set out in full below.
“In our statement to the meeting of the Committee of Ministers in September, we made clear that it was a matter of significant and increasing concern to the Irish Government that there has been no progress by the UK Government on the legislation to implement the Stormont House Agreement framework to deal with the legacy of the past in Northern Ireland.
Regrettably, nothing in the submission of the UK Government for this meeting, or in the statement by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland yesterday, lessens that concern.
In 2014, the Irish and UK Governments, together with the parties in Northern Ireland, collectively agreed a framework for dealing with the legacy of that difficult past. The Stormont House Agreement provided for investigations of outstanding cases, truth recovery overseen by an independent international body, an oral history archive, and for the promotion of societal reconciliation.
In its 18 March Written Ministerial Statement, the UK Government proposed significant changes to that framework. The Irish Government expressed its real concern at this shift in direction. In the decision following its September meeting, this Committee also expressed concern about the lack of detail provided in the UK Government’s approach; how its proposals would work in practice and in compliance with the UK’s obligation under Article 2 of the Convention. Concrete information was requested in this regard by the Committee.
The submission made by the UK Government does not give any clarity on the way forward.
In the absence of such information, we believe it is absolutely necessary and appropriate that the Committee of Ministers should record, through an Interim Resolution, its very deep concern, and resume examination of McKerr group of cases at its next meeting.
The position of the Irish Government remains clear. The provisions of the Stormont House Agreement were not easy to agree – but they were agreed, collectively, and set out a path toward healing the wounds of the conflict, with the protections afforded by the European Convention on Human Rights at their core. The commitment to implement the Agreement was reaffirmed at the time of New Decade, New Approach in January this year. It is vital now that we make progress to see this framework realised and implemented.
Until we do, and until families like those in the McKerr group being discussed today, see progress toward truth and justice in their respective cases, the pain that they and their communities feel will remain, and will be felt too by the next generation. We remain ready to engage and work together with the UK Government and the parties in Northern Ireland to implement our collective commitment, and we ask the Committee to underline also the urgent need for action.
Turning to individual measures and the case of Pat Finucane - in September this Committee expressed its deep concern that the UK Government had yet to make a decision regarding how to respond to the 2019 UK Supreme Court judgement, which found that an investigation into the murder of Pat Finucane that was compliant with Article 2 of the Convention had never taken place.
The strong position of the Irish Government has consistently been that a full and independent public inquiry, as provided for under the Weston Park agreement in 2001, is the only outcome that would ensure that those obligations were met.
The Government has noted the announcement by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland yesterday evening, setting out the UK Government response to the February 2019 UK Supreme Court judgement in the case of Pat Finucane
Ireland notes with profound regret that a decision was not taken yesterday to hold a full and independent public inquiry.
In a case such as this, in which it is acknowledged that there were – in the words of Prime Minister Cameron - ‘shocking levels of collusion’, there is an undeniable onus on the state to do everything possible to restore public confidence through a process that fully meets relevant international standards and obligations of effectiveness, independence and transparency.
We note that the Secretary of State said yesterday that the UK Government is not taking the possibility of a public inquiry off the table, but that he wished to allow the PSNI and Police Ombudsman processes to move forward first.
We would note also the statement by the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland yesterday that there are currently no new lines of inquiry in the case, and it is unlikely that the PSNI would be in a position to carry out a review of the case.
It therefore remains the position of the Irish Government that only through a full and independent public inquiry will a satisfactory resolution to this case be found in line with the obligations of the Convention.
In our view, it is appropriate and timely for the Committee to decide to reopen supervision of this case.”
Notes to Editor
- An Interim Resolution, as adopted today, is a mechanism by which the Committee of Minsters can express particular concern regarding the progress of the execution of a decision.
- In this resolution, the Committee expressed profound concern that the UK authorities have not provided any details in response to the Committee’s request for information on the approach to legacy investigations set out by the government in the Written Ministerial Statement of 18 March 2020, in particular how the current proposals would work in practice and in compliance with the obligation under Article 2 of the Convention and the proposed legislative timetable for those proposals.
- Regarding the case of Pat Finucane, the Committee noted the decision made by the UK Government shortly before its meeting, with respect to the Supreme Court judgement on the case and will consider the decision at its next meeting in March 2021, where the case will be re-examined, with a view to considering whether to re-open ‘individual measures’ (supervision of the case).